Around the Fourth Century before Common Era (4C BCE), evolution, natural and artificial selections, atomism, and non-Euclidean geometry were well-known. Actually the making of super-cattle, evolutionarily engineered by the Greeks, was one of the main Greek “national” incomes. Hundreds of books on atomism existed. Six non-Euclidean (both elliptic and hyperbolic) theorems made it into Aristotle.
What happened next?
Fascism. Not just political fascism, but what political fascism needed as its ultimate foundation, intellectual fascism. Christianism destroyed all the reasonable knowledge it could find, to show neither facts, nor reason had an existence, let alone merit.
Science and Reason Are Natural Enemies of Fascism, Thus Atomism Was Enemy to Emperor and Christianism Alike:
Ancient Greek science was most advanced. However, it depended heavily on the philosophical method. We see it now only through the extreme filter of Roman imperial and then Christian fascism, which did their very best to obliterate science.
The reason? Science depended upon reason, and was a monument to reason. Reason was the enemy of the fascist “Princeps” system set-up by Augustus in 27 BCE. Augustus’ system made no sense: it claimed the Republic, and the rule of law, persisted, yet, the Republic was led by a “First Man” (“Princeps”) whose extraordinary powers broke Cleisthenes’ “Isonomia” (equality relative to law). (Cleisthenes was the plutocrat whose revolution led Athens to total democracy.)
Not just that, but it was not clear how the Prince (“Princeps” was transformed into “Prince” by the French) gathered all these powers. Thus succession from Prince to Prince was unclear, and, generally involved strife, corruption, if not outright war.
“Principate” Rome could never figure succession out. Ultimately, Diocletian decided to divinize the emperor (around 300 CE). The smart and feared imperial super-teen Constantine, observing his extended family, the Roman court with the astuteness of youth, stood this on its head: instead of making the emperor god, he made the emperor into the messenger of god, or, as he put it, the “thirteenth apostle”.
The Greek apostolos means “messenger, person sent forth,” from apostellein “send away, send forth” (“apo” means far, as in apogee). Constantine grabbed this title for himself (and notice Muhammad, the Islamist, did exactly the same, 300 years later…)
Thus God was made in the image of the emperor (the idea was not invented by Constantine, all by himself; Commodus’ mistress was Christian; and Christianism grew in power and quasi-military organization in the Third Century with at least tacit imperial consent).
Yet, fundamentally, the emperor was just a gangster in chief, and thus invited a general mood of gangsterism, encouraging ever more plutocracy, satanic power at the top.
In the end, tax-free plutocratic families grabbed all the powers they could, typically with one family member a war chief, and another a bishop; what was left of the state passed military treaties with various barbarian tribes, playing them against each other, until the Franks, most closely associated to the Roman state since 310 CE, took the complete control, in 507 CE, that they had been officially given by the Roman state in 400 CE.
One of the great physicists of the second half of the 20th century, Richard Feynman, wrote at the beginning of his wonderful “Lectures on Physics”:
“If, in some cataclysm, all scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis, or the atomic fact, or whatever you wish to call it, that all things are made of atoms – little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence you will see an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied.”
The idea is found in Cicero’s work. Cicero was a lawyer, statesman and a political philosopher, but not a natural philosopher. However, the idea of atomism was so well-known that he explicitly wrote it down: “Democritus atomos quas appellat, id est corpora individua propter soliditatem, censet in infinito inani, in quo nihil nec summum, nec infimum, nec medium nec ultimum nec extremum sit, ita ferri, ut concursionibus inter se cohaerescant ex quo efficiantur ea, quae sint quaeque cernantur, omnia, eumque motum atomorum nullo a principio, sed ex aeterno tempore intelligi convenire
“Democritus called them atoms, that is indivisible bodies due to their solidity, in infinte vacuum, in which there is nothing, no up, no down, nor middle nor ultimate nor extremity, which so move that they cohere with each other through collisions, so that out of everything emerges that is, and that is perceived, and that it is right to understand the movement of atoms as movements not from a beginning busince eternal time …”
[My translation, thanks to six years of Latin!]
Carlo Rovelli, director of the quantum gravity group at the Centre de Physique Théorique de Luminy in Marseille, France, is the author of Covariant Loop Quantum Gravity: An Elementary Introduction to Quantum Gravity and Spinfoam Theory (2014) and Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (2016). His latest book is Reality Is Not What It Seems (2016), translated by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre. He wrote:
“I often think that the loss of the works of Democritus in their entirety is the greatest intellectual tragedy to ensue from the collapse of the old classical civilisation. We have been left with all of Aristotle, by way of which Western thought reconstructed itself, and nothing by Democritus. Perhaps if all the works of Democritus had survived, and nothing of Aristotle’s, the intellectual history of our civilisation would have been better. But centuries dominated by monotheism have not permitted the survival of Democritus’s naturalism.
The closure of the ancient schools such as those of Athens and Alexandria, and the destruction of all the texts not in accordance with Christian ideas, was vast and systematic, at the time of the brutal antipagan repression following the edicts of Emperor Theodosius, which in 390–391 CE declared that Christianity was to be the only and obligatory religion of the empire. Plato and Aristotle, pagans who believed in the immortality of the soul or in the existence of a Prime Mover, could be tolerated by a triumphant Christianity. Not Democritus.”
We know of 700 major written works of Antiquity. Only 160 survived Christian rage and destruction: Christian fundamentalists did to civilization and reason what the Islamist State did to Palmyra (and is still doing!) All but ten of these works were saved by the Franks.
Poggio Bracciolini secretary of many popes and was a passionate hunter of ancient books, found the now famous Roman author Lucretius, in the library of a Franco-German monastery. Poggio found many important books of antiquity in these old Frankish monasteries. He found one, just one copy of Lucretius’ famous poem, De Rerum Natura, which told the symphony of nature as discovered, suspected and guessed by Ancient Greek natural philosophers.
The discovery was made in january 1417. The copy was copied, and then lost! (Or destroyed by some astute Christian scum.) The Catholic fascists forbade the reading of Lucretius in December 1516. In 1551, the Council of Trent made it a capital crime to read Lucretius. (This illustrates the general principle that the Catholic Church went out of control, ever more, after the First Crusade, starting shortly before 1100 CE; it got only worse for the next five centuries…)
The fate of Atomism has become that of civilization. And what of today? Atomism is a fact. Can we improve on Atomism? In a way, we have: see the Standard Model, with its Photons, Gluons, Quarks, Electrons, etc. But we can do, we have done, better. Next.